By PAT YASINSKAS
Let’s make this abundantly clear right at the start. What you are reading is a column, not a news story. There is a big difference between the two and many don’t realize it.
A column is where a writer can insert his/or her own opinion and use his or/her own voice. A news story is limited strictly to facts, although the words “sources said’’ sometimes have to be used to get the news into the story.
So here’s my opinion – and please remember it’s only an opinion: I can’t see Jon Gruden returning to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yes, there is plenty of speculation out there, although it may just be wishful thinking by fans. And, yes, I admit there are a number of reasons why such a scenario would make sense. But there are just as many reasons why Gruden returning to the franchise he led to a Super Bowl title over a decade ago don’t make sense.
For now at least, the job belongs to Dirk Koetter. But the Bucs are 3-6 and ownership hasn’t shown a lot of patience with coaches since firing Gruden after he went 9-7 in the 2008 season. Certainly, the job could be open.
And, certainly, Gruden already is the fan favorite to take over. They’ve been chanting his name at games and talking about him on talk radio. Gruden still lives in Tampa. Just think we Gruden told a national radio audience that, although he hasn’t been contacted by anyone, you never say never. There have been indications through the years that Gruden would be interested in coaching in the NFL or college, if the situation was right.
Wouldn’t the situation be right in Tampa Bay? I say no. Here’s why: Although he lives here, is very popular with the fans and has plenty of fond memories, I suspect that Gruden still has one very bitter memory that would prevent this scenario.
While I was working for ESPN.com, I was assigned to write Gruden’s scouting reports after he worked out quarterbacks and interviewed them for “Gruden’s QB Camp’’. I got to know him fairly well and it didn’t take me long to figure out a couple of things. Gruden has a massive ego – which he has a right to after all he’s accomplished. It was quite obvious, that ego still was very bruised by his firing and he wasn’t a big fan of Tampa Bay ownership. Every visitor was immediately handed a “Fired Football Coaches Association’’ hat and t-shirt.
Yes, there was a recent report that Gruden and Bucs’ ownership have mended fences. Although Gruden will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in December, I have a tough time believing that he and the Glazers are buddy-buddy again. I just don’t think he can forget what happened in the past. And the Glazers also have long memories.
Then, there is the fact that Gruden might currently have the best job in America as the analyst for “Monday Night Football’’. In that role, he gets to stay close to the game he loves, reportedly makes $10 million a year and spends more time at home than he ever has. At 54, would you give all that up to return to the brutal hours, the stress and pressure of coaching in the National Football League? Especially, if you were taking over a team that’s been as lowly as the Bucs since Gruden left?
I suspect Gruden saying that “you never say never’’ is his annual way of leaving the door open. He likes the attention and has been approached for numerous coaching jobs in the past. But he always has turned them down.
Again, it’s just my opinion, but I doubt you’ll see Gruden return to the Bucs. Would he take another NFL job? I think that’s also a long shot, but I won’t totally rule it out, although it would take a ton of money and the right situation.
And what about a college job? Well, speculation is running wild that Gruden could end up at the University of Tennessee. His name has been tied to the Volunteers in the past and there could be some logic behind this one. Gruden’s wife is a former Tennessee cheerleader (and let’s not forget how much influence a wife can have). Gruden is a student of football at all levels and appreciates tradition. Tennessee has tradition, but is down right now. Gruden may look at that as an inviting situation in which he could restore pride to the program and prove he can win big on the college level.
I wouldn’t totally rule out the Tennessee job. But let’s get to the bottom line on my opinion. I think Gruden will be flattered by a number of suitors. But, when it comes right down to it, my guess is he’ll stay in the broadcast booth.
Pat Yasinskas is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at Saint Leo (Fla.) University after covering the NFL for more than 20 years. He still writes occasional columns for TonySoftli.com. He previously wrote for ESPN.com, The Charlotte Observer and The Tampa Tribune. He has had a professional relationship with Tony Softli, dating back to the late 1990s when Yasinskas covered the Carolina Panthers and Softli was an executive for the team.